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May 12, 2007
Spartanburg, S.C. - After a weather delay that lasted over two hours, Columbus State and USC Upstate engaged in what has been the game of the tournament. Brad Linton's two-out RBI single in the top of the 10th was the difference as Columbus took a 7-6 victory to stay live and eliminate the Spartans from the Peach Belt Conference Baseball Tournament at Harley Park.
"It was a great game," said Columbus State head coach Greg Appleton. "We had to play catch-up. Upstate showed a lot of character and played hard. You never know how you're going to play after a rain delay. We kept fighting and were able to get some key hits."
Columbus State improves to 43-16 on the year and takes on the winner of Saturday night's Armstrong Atlantic State-USC Aiken game Sunday at 12:00 noon. Upstate falls to 34-25.
Prior to the rain delay, both teams combined to score five runs in the first inning. Columbus State started things off when Brad Linton singled through the right side to drive in Billy Howard and Drew Candlin to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead. Upstate answered in the bottom of the frame. Eric Guillen singled to score John Caddell and Zach Waterbury collected a two-run single to give Upstate a 3-2 lead.
Lightning was then detected in the area and the teams were called off the field for safety. Shortly thereafter, rain began to fall and the game was delayed for two hours and 28 minutes.
After the rain delay, Upstate struck quickly. Andrew Runion's double down the left field line drove in Jake Rollins to give the Spartans a 4-2 lead. Upstate added to the lead in the fifth inning when Andrew Maddox hit a sacrifice fly to center which scored Kyle Simpson following Simpson's triple with one out.
Upstate starter Kyle Bowley was in control before running into trouble in the top of the sixth inning. With two outs, Brad Bowen singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kurt McKee doubled down the left field line to bring in Bowen to cut the Upstate lead to 5-3. The Cougars got within 5-4 when Howard singled to right, scoring McKee to get Columbus State within 5-4. Columbus State tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the seventh inning on Rodney Rutherford's solo home run.
Upstate got out of a huge jam in the top of eighth inning. Columbus State put runners on the corners with no outs. Upstate reliever Justin Hayes struck out Howard and Candlin. He then induced Linton to grounded out to second to end the inning and the threat. Columbus State grabbed the lead in the top of the ninth inning when David Brown hammered a solo home run with one out to give the Cougars a 6-5 advantage. It was the first time Columbus had led in the game since the first inning.
Upstate put a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth when Jimmy Tanner drew a leadoff walk. Jacob Breen entered as the pinch runner. Breen moved over to second on Rollins's sacrifice bunt. John Caddell then broke the Upstate all-time hits record with a single to right center to score Breen and tie the game at 6-6.
"It's tough to lose that game," said Caddell. "I wanted to be the one up in the situation (in the bottom of the ninth). I have all the confidence in my teammates, but I wanted the bat in my hands."
In the top of the 10th, Columbus State drew two straight walks with one out. Upstate reliever Tim Fournier got a pop up to record two outs in the inning. However, Linton then drove a single through the left side to score McKee from second.
"The guys kept fighting," said Upstate head coach Matt Fincher. "There was no quit in us. I am real proud of our guys. We were beat with outstanding teams in the tournament."
Eric Guillen was hit to leadoff the bottom of the 10th, but was stranded at first as Columbus reliever Johnny Floyd got three straight outs to earn his third save of the season.
Columbus State reliever Paul Able tossed an inning of scoreless relief to improve to 3-4 on the year. Fournier took the loss, his first of the year, and dropped to 3-1 on the season.